Library - Investigations
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam
Testimony of Campbell (Bravo Company, 1st Bn, 1st Marine Regt, 1st Marine Div)l
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CAMPBELL: I went into the USMC 2 weeks after graduating from high schl. I was born and raised in Philadelphia.
1st of all, I would like to give just a little bit of background info and tell you where my heart was and where my mind was when I went into the Marine Corps. I went into USMC specifically to go to Vietnam. I wanted to fight for my country, I wanted to keep Communism from spreading, and most of the other reasons that people would enlist in any service.
I got my chance to go to Vietnam. I was in Vietnam from 2-68 to 3-69 with the 1st Marine Div. I was a corporal in the USMC and my job was a field arty scout observer from Bravo Company, 1st Bn, 1st Marine Regt, 1st Marine Div.
That job consisted of calling in arty, supporting the infy company I was with arty, and 1st of all I would like to go back and explain a little bit of observation schl.
In Forward Observer [FO] schl we were taught constantly that arty was our weapon and was the greatest killer on the battlefield, we were to be proud of this. When we go out on the ranges, there would be man-made objects out there, old car bodies, tank bodies, and so forth and so on, and for 2 weeks we took turns calling in arty on these objects and went from 1 end of the range to the other destroying every man-made object there. This was our training, you know, just destroy man-made objects and all of the time we would sort of pretend or what ever that they were VC strongholds or vills or what not.
Then when I went to Vietnam I found out that a lot of the things I was taught in FO schl were supposed to be discarded, to throw away the book. I was r.ever taught anything about the Geneva Convention as far as the use of arty goes. It was constantly blow away this, blow away this.
When I was in Vietnam I learned how to use arty very well, and an incident in 8-68 when I was in Con Thien, which is just about 2 miles south of the DMZ, I went up to an observation post on the northern part of the area there, Con Thien area, and using a pair of ships' binoculars, which are huge binoculars, 20 by 120 power, I started scanning everything north of my position.
I noticed 2 vills - the 1st day I went up there I noticed only 1. Then later on I noticed another 1. But this 1st 1 I observed people working in the fields, going in and out of their hooches there were about 20-30 hooches, small grass huts. I noticed no military action going on there.
We had received no fire. This vill was north of the DMZ, outside of the demilitarized 1, actually in NV. I estimated it at about 15,000 meters north of the position I was at.
I went back to my FCSS bunker, which is the: fire support coordination center where all air, arty and ground ops are coordinated. and I went back there to talk to my lt, who had been my team cmdr a couple of months before, and who had been promoted to that position. Hence he was a personal friend of mine. I told him about the vill. and I asked him if I could fire on it.
and he said, "Sure, go ahead." and he said, "There should not be any question in your mind, don't worry about it, don't worry about whether you should fire on this vill, because it probably undoubtedly is feeding the NVC with rice therefore, they are sympathizers, they are the enemy." He said if it is cleared through Bn and Div then I will clear it and it will be all right to fire. The reason it would have to be cleared through the Div would be because I had to use long-range and heavy arty to reach that position, it was that far away from me.
I went back up to the OP, I called in 175-mm arty, I called in white phosphorus plus 8-inch arty to burn the houses I called in 175mm high-explosive, point detonating rounds which exploded on the ground on impact. I called in variable time fuze high-explosive rounds, which explode about 20 meters above the ground killing everything hat is either standing, lying, sitting down or crawling. This was so if any of them got into the trenches or holes the shrapnel would come down and hit them instead of exploding on the ground and missing them.
I used everything I was taught to use in FO schl. I used every method I could to kill anything that was there. I called in that arty for several hours. I destroyed most of the houses.
As far as casualties go, a could tell people were walking around, but I could not, from that distance, make out whether they were killed or just wounded. But they went down. and when that arty explodes above the ground, especially arty as large as 175mm rounds and using VT, this stuff goes down, and if there are people lying on the ground trying to get away from it, there is very little chance of getting away from it.
About 20-30 people dropped to the ground, and I only observed 1 get up and run and make it to a shelter. The rest of them, for the rest of the hours I continued to call in arty, never got up. Therefore, I estimated a casualty figure of about 20 confirmed kills. This body-count went to the battery that was a]ing.
The next day I went back up to the OP, checked out the area again with those binoculars, and found another vill a few 1,000 meters to the left, as I was looking north, which is to the west of the other vill. Again this was north of the DMZ. and I started calling arty, faring on that too.
Again this was cleared from Bn through Regt through Div. They have the little maps in their bunkers that have everything there, vills and whatever. The coordinates I sent down, there is no way that they could have not known that these were vills, but they gave the okay anyway, and if they gave the ok at Regt and Div, it was all right with me.
So I continued to call in arty and destroyed that vill too and went back and called in arty on the 1 I had called in on before and sort of finished up the job. like I said, I would estimate the casualties as maybe 20-30, I do not know. I know a lot of people went down, and I only saw 1 get up and make it to shelter.
This was not the only incident. It was not the only time I had called in arty on a vill. But it was the only time I called in arty on a vill that we had received no fire from or there was no evidence of military ops.
I also observed engineers wiring enemy bodies. They would wire them up with plastic explosives, C4, 20, 30, 40 pounds of C4. This was on Operation Meade River in 11-68, in the Dodge City Tam Ky area south of Danang. I also observed very much mistreatment of civilians, throwing C ration cans at little kids, knocking mama-sans off the road as we rode by in jeeps and trucks
CONYERS: Knocking them off with what?
CAMPBELL: With rifle butts, anything we could extend out from the vehicle.
Our .50's, anything. As we would arrive by at 30-40mph the mama-sans would be going down with their poles with stuff hanging from them, walking down the roads, and we would hit them with rifle butts and things.
I also saw POWs, in Operation Meade River, the refusal to take POWs. We had a Bn order that after we had gotten a few POWs not to take POWs if they came up to us and their hands, it looked like their fingers were curled, we were supposed to shoot them on sight. If their fingers were extended, their hands open, we were supposed to take them. and the rationale for this was given that they might have a grenade in their hands, so don't take chances.
A lot of guys never even bothered to see whether the fingers were uncurled or what, they just shot them, said it looked like they might have had something in their hand. Besides, the distance, maybe 3-400 meters away, walking toward us, you could not tell whether the hands were curled or not, and the guys just shot them anyway. That is about the extent of the testimony I have. I could go into it in detail if you would like.
DELLUMS: Thank you very much for your testimony, Mr Campbell. Congressmen Seiberling has to go to a committee meeting and he would like to ask you a question before he leaves. We have also been joined by Cngswmn Abzug from NY. Congressmen Seiberling.
SEIBERLING: I commend you, sir, for your candor and your courage in appearing here. I just have 1 ques tion with respect to this last order you mentioned. Was that a written or oral order?
CAMPBELL: That was a verbal order that came down from the Col of the Bn, 1st Bn, 1st Marines, went to the company cmdrs. I was at the briefing of the platoon cmdrs by the company cmdr when he gave this order to the platoon cmdrs.
SEIBERLING: Was there no qualification in the order that they should only be shot when they had their hands curled if they were within range to throw grenades, or were there any limitations of any sort?
CAMPBELL: There was no limitation on range. If they looked like they might have something in their hands, the order was to kill them.
SEIBERLING: Even though it was beyond the range where they could possibly throw a grenade?
CAMPBELL: There was nothing said about range at all.
SEIBERLING: Thank you.
DELLUMS: We have been joined by Congressmen Jonathan Bingham from NY. Cngswmn Chisholm.
CHISHOLM: 1st of all, in terms of the overall training or preparation, was there ever anything that was said on the part of your superiors or generals or Cols with respect to the sanctity of human life, even where children and/or women were relatively helpless in the situation? Was there any discussion ever centering on the sanctity of human life? Because this is 1 of the things we talk about so much in this nation.
CAMPBELL: The best way I think I can answer that question is to say that there were classes where the instructors cautioned us not to just shoot anything and to be careful. and you know, to preserve civilian lives and to treat the civilians decently. - But these classes, well, there weren't many of them, and they were so short and they were so overshadowed by all of the other classes where the instructors constantly, you know, taught us "blow them away, blow them away," and I would also like to point out that the people who instructed us were NCOs, and most, if not all, were Vietnam vets. and they would train us by the book as far as the class goes, they would tell us all of these little points the book says.
Then they would turn around and tell us stories, their stories, which did not quite go along with what they taught us. They would tell us stories of blowing away civilians, of what to expect in Vietnam, and they would always refer to the Vietnamese as gooks, and slant eyes and dinks, and we got the overall picture, at least I did, and I believe most of the other guys got the impression, you know, you cannot trust anybody, and as long as nobody is watching to be hard, tough, and to have no feeling, blow them away. It was always blow them away.
CHISHOLM: 1 last question. Would you say then that under the circumstances as the whole situation escalated, and as men became more desperate under a great deal of stress and strain, that there was absolutely no time to talk about or think about human life as such? The circumstances were, in other words, we might get killed, so we may as well get rid of them? It was a desperate situation, would you say, in terms of the escalation? Or was it a kind of attitude they had against these people maybe because of the fact that they do represent a different ethnic group or come from a different part of the world? I am very interested in that whole approach or attitude, because I have gotten it individually from many persons.
CAMPBELL: At certain times, if you excuse the expression, when the shit hit the fan, yes, it was a matter of us or them. and this was when people were really on edge, when the strain was really great. But all of the other times when we were not going through this strain there was still the attitude, there was always the attitude - it developed in boot camp, it developed in ITR, it developed in staging Bn before we went over and it developed all of the way through the time we were in Vietnam - we hated these people, we were taught to hate these people, they were gooks, slants, dinks, they were Orientals, inferior to us, they chewed betel nuts, they were ugly, you know, they ate lice out of each other's hair, they were not as good as us.
and you could not trust them.
I did not think it was racist then, but I certainly - do now. We just hated the whole people. They were all gooks. We were not taught to just call the VC-NVA gooks. The instructors, the Vietnam vet, these people we looked up to as like next to God, they always referred to all of these people as gooks and we picked this up from them. and that is the feeling we had all of the way through Vietnam.
ABZUG: I may have missed some of the testimony, since I came in the middle of it, but as I came in you were talking about you had spoken to your CO and been granted permission to target these vills. I am rather interested in knowing what preceded that. Had you been given instructions to spot the vills 1st and then call in, #1? and #2, what was the nature of your rpt to the CO? and #3, what was his reply to you in terms of instructions?
CAMPBELL: Okay. Well, just by the nature of my job I was to spot vills. I am an arty scout observer, that is my job. I went to an observation post in Con Thien which is just below the DMZ, and I spotted vills. They were - well, in 2 different days there were 2 vills I spotted north of the DMZ, in the lower part of NV, and I went back to the officer, liaison officer in charge of the FSCC, fire support coordination center, and I told him exactly what I saw and that is that there were vills where people were walking around.
and he asked me if I saw any troops. I said "No." He seemed disappointed. I was disappointed when I could not see any troops there.
I told him, you know, they were working the fields and stuff. and I asked him if I should fire on them, you know, if I should call in arty on these vills. He stopped for a few seconds, thought about it, and said yes, go ahead. He said they are probably feeding the NVA with rice anyway, so therefore they are enemies, they are supporting the enemy, they are enemy.
He said as long as there is no flak, there is no hassle in getting it cleared through the Regt and Div, which I would have to do to get long-range arty cleared, as long as they clear it there, he said, it is all right with me.
I got it cleared through Regt and Div. These people knew what I was firing at, the coordinates I gave was the middle of vills. They had this on their maps, they cleared it, he cleared it, and I fired them.
ABZUG: But was it he who sought permission from the CO or was it you?
CAMPBELL: I sought permission from him 1st of all face to face. Then when I went back to the OP I called the mission in over the radio. This was relayed by radio through his Bn coordination center, then it was sent on to Regt, Div, and they okayed it, and then sent the message back down through the radio to me that I could indeed fire on it.
ABZUG: You did not give the firing instructions, did you?
CAMPBELL: It depends on what instructions you are talking about. I gave the coordinates for the vill, and I told them what I wanted fired on I told them where I wanted it fired I told them why I wanted it fired.
ABZUG: Prior to this, in spotting vills what instructions were you given for the purpose of spotting vills, and which vills you were to rpt on and which vills you were to act on?
CAMPBELL: It was very vague. I mean, it started in FO schl, and all of the way through until the time and during the time I was in Vietnam. There was very little instruction about the use of arty as far as inhabited vills go. But the overall theme was to destruct. It was constantly drilled into us that arty was the greatest killer on the battlefield and to use it every chance we could.
We were supposed to be proud of the of act that we were in arty. and anything, any instructions about being careful about civilians was sort of like on the side, it was completely overshadowed by the fact that we were there to kill and we had the best killer in our hands. We had responsibility, and that, you know, we had life and death ar do not know how many times they told us we had the power of life and death in our hands. and it was not like a warning, it was something we were supposed to be proud of, and we were proud of it, and we used it every chance we could.
When we got to Vietnam, or at least when I got to Vietnam personally, the rest of the FO I talked to, specifically the FO I relieved for Bravo Company, told. me about the mass destruction of Hue City with arty. and he told me in a very proud way, he was proud of destroying a good portion of Hue City with arty.
I got there 2-24, I was there when they came back from Hue City, when the Marines came back from Hue City, and a talked with these people about Hue City. and this FO told me how he called in arty on all of these houses. It was - he was proud of it, it was that simple. He had his chance to use the greatest killer on the battlefield and he used it well. He destroyed, and that was the idea, destroy, blow away, constantly blow away. This was the theme the whole time I was in Vietnam, to destruct. They were only gooks anyway, why worry about them?
DELLUMS: Thank you. Congressmen Bingham.
BINGHAM: Thank you, Mr Chmn. 1st of all, I would like to commend you, Mr Chmn, and your colleagues for arranging these hearings. I have been following the results as they have been reported and it seems to me you are bringing out some very important matters indeed. It is a crying shame in my judgment that no official committee of the House has seen fit to conduct hearings of this sort. They should have. But failing that, I think you are performing a real service here.
I am sorry that I missed the opening statement of this witness. I gather from what you say, sir, that at the time you were engaged in these activities you saw nothing wrong in it is that correct?
CAMPBELL: No, I thought everything was right about it. I mean, the people who instructed me, the people I was not only taking orders from, or advice, these people "knew their shit." That means they had been in combat, they had experienced it all. and, like, these people were on a pedestal, I looked up to them.
and I believed everything they told me. I figured this was, you know, another way of stopping Communism, and protecting my country, and I felt nothing wrong with it except there was 1 time at the end of that 2d mission I called in on the 2d vill that I began wondering what am I doing? You know. It went through my mind, what am I doing? and it shook me for a while and my radioman, who I had become very close to, never said anything, but he just stared at me and the look on his face, you know, the idea that he conveyed to me was the same question I had, what are you doing? you know.
and this rattled me, but going back to the old USMC idea of being hard, I just pushed it to the back of my mind. I knew I could not think about it too long or else I would not be hard anymore, I would not be 1 of the elite killers anymore if I started having feelings. Besides this I rationalized it, I mean, this is what they had told me, nobody questioned it, it was the thing to do. I did not have any serious questions about it all of the way up until that time and even though I did not h ave questions then, I just had to put it in the back of my mind, because I would have been a weakling.
BINGHAM: When did you become convinced 1hat this was wrong? What were the circumstances of that? Was that after you left Vietnam?
CAMPBELL: I did not admit it to myself that the whole thing was wrong, not just the calling in of arty on that specific vill, but the whole gig in Vietnam was wrong until well after I was back from Vietnam. It was playing on me all of the time, you know, it would constantly come up in my mind, questions, doubts. and I was able to keep pushing them back into the back of my mind. But they kept growing and kept nagging at my mind more and more until finally I started running into other people who had the same questions, and even though I recognized they pretty much felt the same way I did, they were going through some of the same things I was, and after I got back from Vietnam I never told anybody about this except other Vietnam vets, because I knew other people could not understand. But it was quite a bit of time after I came back from Vietnam that I finally realized, or I finally admitted it to myself that what I had done was pretty gross.
BINGHAM: Would you have any comments to make about the relationship of your arty fire against these vills and the use of air power against occupied areas? Did you have experience with the use of air power also? Bombing?
CAMPBELL: I never called in air strikes, but the air controller that calls in air strikes and myself had just about the same job. We were pretty close to each other in the company and, you know, the only difference was 1 was shot out of a gun and 1 was dropped from a plane. It was the same idea, the same feelings, the same attitudes. I do not know if that answers your question.
BINGHAM: Yes, it does. Thank you.
DELLUMS: Thank you. You testified to the destruction of 2 vills. I would like to get a little specific info. Can you identify the unit or platoon or company, Bn, etc?
CAMPBELL: I was in Bravo Company, 1st Bn, 1st Marine Regt, 1st Marine Div, and that was the company I scouted for as an arty scout observer. Technically I belonged to Alpha Battery, 1st Bn, 11th Marine Regt, 1st Marine Div, which was an arty battery. They lent me out for 11 of the 13 months I was in Vietnam to this infy company to support them. and it was, the incident happened, about the 2d-3d week of 8-68.
DELLUMS: My next question is, was there any provocation or any military reason at all for the destruction of these 2 vills?
CAMPBELL: Well, the reason that I used was - well, actually the idea for this reason was given to ma by the LT I talked to was the fact that they here probably feeding, undoubtedly feeding the NVA troops that came through that area with rice. But other than that I saw no troops, we had received no fire from it, it was just a vill sitting there.
DELLUMS: As you probably are aware, yesterday we had some very shocking testimony about the killing of 30 Vietnamese women and children in a vill In your opinion, is there any difference in the unit walking into a vill and shooting down women and children and the type of destruction that you described in our testimony?
CAMPBELL: The only difference I can see is in a My Lai type of thing there are many people pulling the trigger, whereas in the use of arty there is 1 person actually pulling the trigger, actually spotting the people and pulling the trigger and that is the FO, and that is myself, with the consent of higher authority. Other than that, I do not think there is any difference. The people are dead just the same.
DELLUMS: I would imagine that most Amer people believe as they view the war that the US and RVNese people are on 1 side as 1 group, and the enemy or the VC is on the other side. But having sat through 3 days now of testimony, it appears to me that it becomes extremely difficult to determine who is the civilian and who is the combatant, given the nature of the testimony.
and this is the question I would like to ask you: Does the use of conventional warfare in a struggle such as the struggle going on in SEA dictate the kind of atrocities that you have testified to and many other people before you have testified to?
CAMPBELL: I think the type of warfare and also, you know, the policies that are passed down to the individual troops, you know, FREE-FIRE ZONES's, I do not know how many times I fired arty in a FREE-FIRE ZONES where everything in there was supposed to be enemy, where I knew myself there were quite a few civilians. These type of things. and also the training we get before we go there and while we are there, all lend to the atrocities. Conventional warfare, the use of arty and air power, I think it is ridiculous to try to use that in a guerrilla war because just from, well, just from, I don't know, luck, whatever you want to call it, bad luck, there is always bound to be a certain percentage of civilians killed by the use of heavy arms such as arty and air power. I mean, how can you kill a guerrilla among a bunch of civilians by dropping bombs?
DELLUMS: I would like to ask in extension of that, are you familiar with the term that the only good gook is a dead gook?
CAMPBELL: I am very familiar with that.
DELLUMS: In your personal opinion and experience, did that term refer not only to VC but to RVNese people as well?
CAMPBELL: That was the genl attitude. "The only good gook was a dead gook," and that referred to Vietnamese, to gooks, you know. like I said, gooks were anybody, anybody with slanted eyes, they were not just vc and NVA. So, therefore, if the only good gook is a dead gook, then the only good Vietnamese is a dead Vietnamese. like if you could get away with it, you know, blow them away.
DELLUMS: Thank you.
CHISHOLM: I would like to ask you, on the basis of your testimony it would seem that the racism which is so inherent in the bloodstream of our nation in a very real sense was transported abroad and became a part of the total practices and training of our men for this war against the so-called gooks.
In other words, what I am saying is that it is not only a question of what has happened in Vietnam, but it is also a question of a total overall foreign policy and racial policy toward people. and would you say that seems to be the overall philosophy?
CAMPBELL: Well, I do not know about the overall foreign policy, but I know in Indochina that is the idea, you know that they are inferior to us, and that pretty well sums it up. When you go into combat and you have got a rifle in your hands and you believe every slant eye around you is inferior, you are not exactly going to treat them with kid gloves.
CHISHOLM: Thank you.
DELLUMS: I would like to, on behalf of myself and the members of the panel, commend you for your courage and thank you very much for your testimony. We deeply appreciate you coming before us.